Through the tears, the Halladay family finds joy in Cooperstown honor

Through the tears, the Halladay family finds joy in Cooperstown honor

NEW YORK — It was a beautiful family portrait, a mom with a shining smile flanked by her two handsome teenage sons.

There was a fourth person in this snapshot and though you couldn’t see him, you could feel his powerful presence in the words of the people who loved him most.

“I never saw him as Roy Halladay,” 14-year-old Ryan said. “I just saw him as Dad.”

Of all the touching tributes that poured out about Roy Halladay the day after his first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame, that was the sweetest. Ryan, his 18-year-old brother Braden, and their mom, Brandy, had made the trip from Tampa to New York (on Phillies owner John Middleton’s private plane) early Wednesday morning and now, here they were, in a 20th floor ballroom at a posh Manhattan hotel for the official day-after-election Hall of Fame news conference.

Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez, all elected with Halladay, sat on a dais in front of the room, their elation justified and impossible to hide. The Halladay family, at their choosing, sat quietly among the seated guests. They are still hurting, and always will, after losing their husband and dad at the age of 40 in a plane crash 15 months ago. But, make no mistake, they felt the same elation and pride as the other men on their first day as Hall of Famers.

“To be able to be here and see the appreciation and love that everyone has for Roy and his efforts and hard work, that means the world to us,” Brandy said off to the side of the dais.

She glanced proudly at her two sons. As little boys, they followed their dad around the Phillies clubhouse. On the night Roy pitched his playoff no-hitter at Citizens Bank Park in October 2010, Ryan played in the kids’ room downstairs while Braden sat in the seats with his mom and squirmed nervously while dad put the finishing touches on a masterpiece.

“It’s crazy just to know a person who is a Hall of Famer,” said Braden, blond and lanky, looking so much like his dad. “That’s big in itself. But to have that person as your dad — that’s something that is crazy that I still can’t comprehend.”

Little known fact: The Phillies strongly considered selecting Halladay, a Denver-area high school prospect, in the first round of the 1995 draft. Team officials, however, had concerns about the young pitcher’s delivery, worried that he might not hold up physically, and instead selected outfielder Reggie Taylor with the 14th pick. Other teams had the same concerns. Halladay was picked 17th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Phillies were right to have concerns about young Halladay’s delivery. Oh, he made it to the big leagues quickly and flirted with a no-hitter in his second start. But by the end of his second season in the majors, he was “getting his ass kicked” in the words of then Jays manager Buck Martinez. In the spring of 2001, the Jays sent Halladay, then 23, all the way back to the low minors to see if they could save his career with a complete overhaul of his delivery. 

“He hated me for it,” Martinez recalled recently.

Brandy was with her husband for every difficult step.

“That was a really tough year … or two … or three,” she said Wednesday.

The couple considered giving up the dream and walking away from baseball. Roy thought about going to college.

“We thought we were done,” Brandy said. “The truth is, they didn’t send us back thinking we were going to make it. They sent us back to figure out what they were going to do with us and who they could trade to get for us. Roy fought really, really hard to get back.”

With the help of pitching coach Mel Queen, Halladay went through a complete mechanical remake that season in the minors. He lowered his arm angle to increase movement on his pitches, added a shoulder tuck to increase deception and gained body momentum by straightening his direction from the rubber to home plate. He made it back to the majors — triumphantly — and won 19 games in 2002. He won 22 the next season and earned the American League Cy Young Award in 2003.

Halladay would not have made it back to the majors without the support of his wife, a fiery extrovert who is not one to sit on the sidelines. After her husband was sent to the minors, she went to a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Florida.

“I bought every self-help book I could find,” she said with a laugh. “I still have a stack of them at home.” 

There was gold in that stack of books. Halladay read The Mental ABC’s of Pitching by sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman. He didn’t just read it, he lived it. Dorfman became a mentor to Halladay to the point where the pitcher was well on his way to becoming a “performance specialist” at the time of his death. He had even worked with a number of Phillies prospects on the mental aspects of pitching the day before his death.

There was another factor in Halladay’s growth from potential first-round flame out to Hall of Famer.

He had the inner drive of 100 turbo engines.

Where did it come from?

“I don’t want to say fear, but when you’re terrified to lose you’ll do anything you can to succeed,” Brandy said. “And he did not want to lose and so he did every possible thing he could to win. That’s what he did. He worked hard every day.”

Halladay wanted to win so badly that he pushed for a trade to the Phillies in 2009. The Phillies were up in those days. The Jays were rebuilding. In 12 seasons in Toronto, Halladay never pitched in the postseason. Pitchers only have so many bullets in their arms and his clock was ticking. He saw the Phillies as a team that could get him to the postseason. He was traded to the Phillies before the 2010 season and experienced the thrill of the postseason twice with his new club.

Philadelphia was so special to Halladay that his family has made the decision he will go into the Hall of Fame without a team’s logo on his cap. Out of respect for both of his baseball homes, including the one in which he spent just four of his 16 seasons, he will go into the Hall with a blank cap on his bronze plaque (see story).

“It was an amazing opportunity,” Brandy said of her family’s time in Philadelphia. “It’s the most loving, passionate, insane city. It was everything we hoped to have a chance to be a part of.”

Halladay did not win a World Series ring in Philadelphia. But late in his career, as he gained wisdom and perspective, he often talked about the importance of enjoying the journey. He loved his Philadelphia journey, loved pitching in front of those sellout crowds. He laid the foundation for a Hall of Fame career in Toronto and pushed it over the goal line with two postseason berths, a perfect game, a no-hitter and another Cy Young Award in Philadelphia.

Halladay will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 21 in Cooperstown, New York. Those who earn their way there gain a measure of immortality and that is certainly comforting to a family that has been through so much.

“Just to be able to think that people are going to be able to remember him for hundreds or thousands of years after we’re all gone is pretty special,” Braden said.

His mom’s eyes welled with emotion.

“I don’t think time heals wounds,” Brandy Halladay said. “I think time gives you an opportunity to learn how to live with your new circumstances. You don’t ever heal. You don’t ever forget somebody. You don’t ever get over something. You just learn how to deal with it in a new way.

“I’m super choked-up right now but things really are great and I’m grateful and we’re learning and we’re growing and we’re good …

“These are good tears.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Which team will Roy Halladay represent in the Hall of Fame? The decision was easy for his family

Which team will Roy Halladay represent in the Hall of Fame? The decision was easy for his family

NEW YORK — Roy Halladay was drafted and developed by the Toronto Blue Jays. He spent 12 of his 16 big-league seasons with the Jays and earned 148 of his 203 victories with that club.

It would be completely understandable — even in Philadelphia, where Halladay spent four memorable seasons — if he were to go into the baseball Hall of Fame with a Blue Jays cap perched atop his head on the bronze plaque that will hang forever on the hallowed walls of Cooperstown.

But Halladay’s cap will carry no logo at all.

“I know we spent the majority of our time in Toronto,” Halladay’s widow, Brandy, said at Wednesday’s official Hall of Fame news conference. “Toronto gave us that chance, that base, that start. But Philly also gave us a chance to win a ring and the passion that we wanted. There’s no way to choose and so we’ve decided that he’ll go in with no team.”

Brandy Halladay was joined by the couple’s two teenage sons, Braden and Ryan, at the Manhattan news conference. The three of them had flown to New York on Wednesday morning. They were initially supposed to take a sunrise commercial flight out of Tampa. Phillies managing partner John Middleton caught wind of the family’s travel plans, surmised that it would be too stressful on them, and sent his private jet to the Tampa area to deliver them to New York.

Roy Halladay was elected to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday, in his first year of eligibility. The honor comes less than 15 months after he was killed when the small plane he was piloting crashed off the west coast of Florida in November 2017. Halladay will be officially enshrined into Cooperstown on July 21, along with closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera, another first-ballot selection. Designated hitter Edgar Martinez and pitcher Mike Mussina were also elected Tuesday and outfielder Harold Baines and pitcher Lee Smith were elected by a special committee in December.

Mussina split his career between the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. He said Wednesday that he was undecided which team’s cap would adorn his Hall of Fame plaque.

The Halladay family had no indecision.

“It was a quick decision,” Brandy said. “The Hall walks you through this. They say, ‘Don’t feel rushed,’ but I kind of already knew how I felt.

“We think that this is the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s not the Phillies’ Hall of Fame or the Blue Jays’ Hall of Fame. Roy is going in as a Major League Baseball player and I think that is important because that’s what he is.

“I would hope that he represents something to all of baseball, not just to Phillies or Blue Jays fans, but to baseball as a whole and I think that is how he should be represented.”

Halladay spent just four seasons in a Phillies uniform and though he never got that ring, he had some incredible highs with the club. He pitched a perfect game and made it to the postseason for the first time in his career. He pitched a no-hitter in the playoffs. He won the National League Cy Young award as a Phillie in 2010 and finished second in the voting in 2011. He had won the American League Cy Young Award with the Jays in 2003. He is on the Phillies’ Wall of Fame and the Jays’ Level of Excellence.

Though the family professed its love and gratitude to both cities, going into the Hall with no direct team affiliation could be translated by some as a sign of respect for Halladay’s time and accomplishments in Philadelphia. After all, he spent just a quarter of his career with the Phillies.

“It was an amazing opportunity,” Brandy Halladay said of her family’s time in Philadelphia. “It’s the most loving, passionate, insane city. It was everything we hoped to have a chance to be part of.”

Several players have gone into the Hall of Fame without a team logo on their cap. Catfish Hunter, who split his career between the Oakland A’s and Yankees, has a blank cap. Recently, Greg Maddux could not pick between the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves and went in with a blank cap. Ditto for manager Tony La Russa, who skippered World Series winners in Oakland and St. Louis. Though the Hall of Fame technically has final say on which cap a player wears on his plague, it usually works with the player and defers to his wishes.

In this case, the Hall of Fame will defer to the Halladay family’s wish. Out of respect for his two baseball homes, Roy Halladay’s cap will be blank.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Roy Halladay is a Hall of Famer — Brandy Halladay, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and more react

Roy Halladay is a Hall of Famer — Brandy Halladay, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and more react

Roy Halladay is everything the Baseball Hall of Fame is about. 

Tuesday was a bittersweet night for everyone fortunate enough to cross paths with Doc or admire him from afar. Good luck finding anyone — a teammate, a rival, a writer, a fan, an exec — who would dream of saying a bad word about him.

Halladay leaves behind an uncommon legacy. As the words you'll read below further illustrate.

Brandy Halladay

"Being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame is every boy's dream. To stand on that stage in Cooperstown and deliver your acceptance speech in front of baseball's most enthusiastic fans is something that every baseball player aspires to achieve, and Roy was no exception. But that was not Roy's goal. It was not his goal to have those three letters after his signature. His goal was to be successful every single day of his 16-year career.  

Tonight's announcement is the end result of that effort. If only Roy were here to personally express his gratitude for this honor, what an even more amazing day this would be. I would like to extend special thanks to the baseball writers for the overwhelming percentage of votes that Roy received in his first year on the ballot. It means so much to me, Braden and Ryan."

Jimmy Rollins

"Congratulations to Roy and the Halladay family on Roy's induction into baseball's Hall of Fame, a place you knew he was destined for if you ever had the opportunity to witness his dominance! The days Doc would take the ball you knew you had to be your very best because there was zero doubt in anyone's mind that you would receive anything less from him!  

When Roy decided to come to Philadelphia, it was for one reason, to win a championship, and we wanted nothing more than to share in that moment of glory with him. Although we never accomplished that with him, it doesn't take away from all that he was able to accomplish during his career. 

Anyone that has ever heard the name Roy Halladay wishes he were here for us all to celebrate this moment of greatness and give thanks for the many memories he gave us on the playing field but even more importantly the ones we all got to create when he took off his Superman cape, gave that big ol' cheesy smile and made you feel like you had known him all your life! Congrats Doc, you are forever enshrined in baseball greatness!!"
                                      
Chase Utley

"One of the great pleasures of my career was being able to play behind a man like Roy Halladay. He was fierce. He was competitive. He was focused. But, most of all, he was great. Not just a great player but also a great teammate and a great friend. On the field, Roy wanted nothing more than to bring another championship to Philadelphia. Off the field, he wanted nothing more than to be the best husband and father he could be. He was someone I admired then and still do today. Jen and I send not just our congratulations to Brandy, Braden and Ryan, but also our thanks for sharing Roy with us and the city of Philadelphia."

Charlie Manuel

"People like to throw the word 'ace' around a lot, but Roy Halladay was a true 'ace.' In his time with the Phillies, he completed more games than anyone else in baseball, because his mindset was to pitch at least 9.0 innings. He was one of the most prepared guys I've ever been around and put more work into preparing for his next start than anyone I'd ever seen. Roy had great control with a tremendous arsenal of pitches and even if he didn't have his best stuff on a particular day, he'd still find a way for his team to win.  

He was an unquestioned leader on our team because with Roy it was never about him, but always about the people around him.  We all miss Roy every day and I'm so thankful to have called him a friend.  Congratulations to his whole family, especially Brandy, Braden and Ryan, on an honor that is very well deserved."

John Middleton

"Roy Halladay made an indelible, unforgettable mark on Phillies history during his time with us. From his perfect game to his postseason no-hitter to his Cy Young Award, his accomplishments in red pinstripes are nothing short of legendary, and his placement in the Hall of Fame is well deserved. Even more impressive was the way Roy carried himself off the field, always giving back not just to his teammates, but more so to his community, whether it was here in Philadelphia or in the Pinellas County area.  

For all he accomplished as a player and everything he stood for as a person, Doc will forever remain in the hearts of Phillies fans everywhere. My heartfelt congratulations go out Brandy, Braden and Ryan."

Mike Schmidt

"Roy was such a great family man and teammate, beloved by Phillies fans.  His teammates watched him train and I believe that pushed them to be better. He studied the game, its mechanics and mental side and was always willing to share his wealth of knowledge with anyone interested.  Roy was indeed a 'man for all seasons.' After retiring, he established an office at the minor league complex to mentor young Phillies, which was his secret love.  

I could go on and on, but I'll end by thanking the baseball writers who recognized Roy Halladay as a first-ballot member.  His family, friends and teammates only wish he could be here."

Cole Hamels

"I consider myself very fortunate to have played alongside Roy. He defined work ethic and how to prepare yourself to win. He wasn't about the spotlight and never wanted to take credit away from his teammates.  He now finally gets the credit he deserves. He completely reinvented himself in order to succeed at the major league level and in a game of failure he didn't lose much. If you did beat him, he would make sure you never did again.  

There's a part of him that I take with me every time I prepare for my games and step out onto that mound.  I congratulate Brandy, Braden and Ryan on Roy Halladay's election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He had such an amazing impact on so many baseball players and future stars."

Kyle Kendrick

"Roy's numbers speak for themselves, but for me it was his work ethic in between starts and the way he treated and respected the game. I know Roy is smiling down on Brandy and the boys today."

Brad Lidge

"Roy was the ultimate competitor and workhorse. He (along with Chase) defined what it meant to be the first to show up and the last to leave. His work ethic was only topped by how brilliant his command was and how nasty his pitches were.  He went through the best hitters like a hot knife through butter and did it with ideal efficiency. He rose up on the biggest occasions of his career and he always gave you every ounce of energy he had."

Jayson Werth

"A well-deserved honor for the fiercest competitor I ever had the honor to take the field with. Roy is deeply missed but remembered forever."